Skip to content

Word Games


A word cloud of the prologue to Her Own Devices that you can read below
Attention Readers


Expect a change in management here. TinyLetter, my newsletter server for five years, is closing up shop next month,

and will delete my archive there too, if that ever interested you. You can always find previous newsletters here.

Rather than signing on with yet another intermediary, I’ll manage the newsletter myself at I’ve moved my

subscription list there, and will switch over in February. If you’re sick of these mailings, you can unsubscribe

by following the link at the bottom of this page. But please don’t go! For one thing, you will miss

being able to order autographed copies of the new novel shortly after its publication in September.

So, even if you’re unsubscribing, please pass this newsletter on to friends.

Thanks so much with bearing with me all this time. It means a lot to me.

Dear Readers,

I sit here at my big desk with a cat curled behind me, edging me out of my chair, having spent a month at it reviewing editorial comments on my manuscript for Her Own Devices. Doing that caused me to think about word usage a lot. The editor didn’t make any major changes to the novel, just a slew of copy edits and scattered comments questioning certain passages. But he relentlessly replaced all my dialog tags (like “Not now,” she exclaimed, or “Now what?” he wanted to know) with either “said” or “asked,” saying any other tags would slow readers down. Having edited hundreds of novels, that’s his firm belief, and so I reluctantly accepted almost all of those changes.

He also doesn’t like me starting sentences, such as the previous one, with gerunds (e.g., verb+”ing”) and recast those that did. I didn’t know there was a rule about that either, but if it helps it sell, what the hell. I jealously guard my authorial voice, but not at the expense of potential revenues.

I sent it back with a bunch of changes made in response to his comments and on my own. Most of mine were at the beginning and the end, particularly in the foreword and afterword. Several of those pages — that readers often skim or skip, I’ve been told — are in my protagonist’s metafictional voice, telling the reader what it feels like to have a novel written about you. Besides hinting at her grim backstory, she indicates she knows she’s a character — not only in this book, but in its predecessor Turkey Shoot (kindly view trailer and kindlier buy at She isn’t happy about that, but in the end can’t complain that much about what she went through this time around, so that’s okay.

And speaking of word games, I have some tips based on playing a couple of hundred NYT Wordle games I’ve mostly solved, usually in three or four guesses. Not that I’m a champion or anything.

  1. It seems better to begin by ruling out vowels rather than consonants, (including that pesky Y), as there are fewer vowels.
  2. However, Wordle words often have just one vowel, as in START or FLICK;
  3. Consequently, look out for consonant digraphs, like ST, FL, RT, and CK.
  4. Wordle is quite conventional in its choice of words, so don’t guess offbeat words unless you are testing letter combinations.
  5. Don’t use the same letter twice in a word unless you have a strong suspicion.
  6. Likewise, I can’t remember any games featuring doubled ones (like LL or TT), so stifle that temptation.
  7. And, of course, be mindful not to play a failed letter again and always shift the position of yellow letters.

Do you have other strategies you think work?

Back to the novel. In a few words intended to grace the back cover (called a blurb), here’s what it’s about:

Struggling as a single mom in Piraeus Greece, Swiss expat Anna can’t shake off her politically checkered past, tell her young son what befell his father, or exorcise her guilt for his demise. What changes her life is witnessing and photographing a street kidnapping. When the culprit is inexplicably let off, Anna goes on the warpath to bring him to justice, deploying whatever friends, devices, and social networks she can. But unwittingly, along with the kidnapper, she too is under surveillance—by the ghost of her lover and father of her child, who wants to help her but, lacking a body, can’t—or can he? To save a child, Anna needs more data and friends, and soon.

Would this entice you to look within? Does it make you curious about Anna, her past, her predicament, her precocious son, and his paternity? If it wouldn’t, I hope you’ll take moment to tell me why so I can improve it.

Publishing is a word game writ large. Close to a million books are conventionally published every year. Up to three times as many are self-published. Novels make for a sizeable chunk of these debuts, and it is hard to attract the attention of potential readers under these conditions. And so, authors, publishers, and publicists have to play all sorts of games to up their chances to win.

Here’s how you can help: One of these word games involves soliciting blurbs, like “… this book is self-assured, intricate, and emotionally engaging” (true quote from a critique by a fellow writer). Authors need to procure advance reviews they can quote from on book covers, media, and promotional material. Especially, we look for praise from authors people already know, hopefully famous ones. As I hardly know any, I’d appreciate help tracking some down. And so, should you know (of) any novelists who might not mind me contacting them to read my manuscript, I will be in your (and hopefully their) debt if you would share their names with me. Even if you don’t know any established authors, just suggesting some who might take interest in a literary crime fiction novel with magical and metafictional elements could help a lot.

As an enticement, here is how the novel opens, with a prologue by its protagonist:

This is Anna Burmeister, but some of you might know me by another name. We’ll get to that. And as much as I didn’t want to, here I am introducing a novel someone I don’t know wrote about me. In fact, it’s the second one he put me in, as I recently found out. Let me tell you, being fictionalized is strange. Just hope it never happens to you, because you’ll have a lot of explaining to do if anyone ever finds out.

You can read the rest of her metafictional monologue here and, should you suspect an author you know might get curious, please send them this link to it with some kind of introduction telling them I can be reached here.

See you next month (I hope) from my new newsletter platform at Perfidy Press. Keep warm.



You can find this and previous Perfidy Press Provocations in our newsletter archive. Should you see any you like, please consider forwarding them to people who might like to subscribe, and thanks.

Published inEssayNewsletterWriting

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.